A Hidden Treasure In The Sierra

One of the beauties of Mexico is the richness of its culture, more specifically the handmade crafts you find across the country. Some of the most popular states with outstanding craftsmanship are Oaxaca, Michoacan and Guerrero. In Oaxaca, you can find the famous barro negro or black clay. This technique was used since the Zapotecas, an indigenous group that lived in the valley of Oaxaca, a state located in the southern part of Mexico. In the 1950’s, a potter named Doña Rosa discovered a technique to change the color of the clay as the pieces got fired. This became the most popular craft in the state.

Michoacan on the other hand is famous for a variety of handmade crafts. From silver, to wood carving and hand woven objects. The wood is sculpted and carved into toys, decorations and masks, they also turn it into lumber for furniture-making.

Uruapan and Patzcuaro are two locations with a large indigenous population where wood working are especially popular. Lesser known areas with amazing handmade crafts happen to be in the sierra of Guerrero. Guerrero is known for its famous beaches including Acapulco and Ixtapa, however the sierra has a large population of people living below the poverty line. Some of the inhabitants make a living out of hand-made palm items including place mats and baskets. I am fortunate to have met Makaua, a company that promotes craftsmanship at an international level.

Makaua’s journey began in 2002 when its founder Beatriz Carregha found a palm placemat in the market. At that moment she knew she had discovered a great product and searched for the people who made them. She was surprised by the attention to detail and dedication it took these workers to produce the items and started a strong relationship with the artisans. The placemats are made with a natural fiber that comes from a particular palm tree that grows in the south of Mexico. This unique fiber and the creation of the placemats comes from a tradition of hundreds of years, that together with the incredible skilled hands of the artisans make these high-quality, handmade crafts extremely unique. She knew the potential these items had and started working together with the artisans, creating new designs while keeping the same high-quality that characterized them since the beginning.

The company started growing and new products where created such as pillows, puffs, tote bags and different size of baskets. After a lot of effort, Beatriz and here two daughters where able to export the products internationally to chains like Crate & Barrel and CB2 in the US. After 12 years of working together with the artisans the quality of life of the artisans has had a substantial impact. They now receive a fair pay, their living conditions have improved and most importantly they don’t have to be separated from their families while doing a tradition that has been passed on from generation to generation. More than 500 families have been part of this inspiring story that is still being written. Become part of Makaua and learn more about their products here.